5 Minutes with Callena Rawlings

This month we are chatting with Callena Rawlings, Regional Manager of eNVIsion Limestone Coast and the Flinders University representative for the region.

1/ Who is Callena?
I was born in Adelaide, and moved to Mount Gambier when I was eleven years old, so I am not quite a local!  I attended Suttontown Primary School, before starting at Grant High School.  After my turbulent teenage years I settled down and started at the Mount Gambier Public Library, a job that changed my life thanks to the inspiring female boss I had in Sarah Philpott and the amazing mentor that Greg Muller (CEO at the time) became for me.  I then married the kind, supportive and patient Jason, who is one of the longest serving Youth Workers in the region and had two incredible daughters who challenge and delight me every day!

2/ What are the main professional areas you have worked in over the years?
I stayed at the Mount Gambier Public Library for nearly a decade, where I really enjoyed designing school holiday programs, managing the Y2K technology challenge (who else remembers that?) and designing and delivering the first ‘What is the internet and how can it help me?” training sessions that the public library offered (now I’m showing my age).   Working around the birth of my two daughters I moved into Youth Development at the District Council of Grant.  I then decided it was time to leave Local Government and spent nearly a decade working in State Government as Communications and Community Engagement Manager for the NRM Board and Department of Environment.  Then I knew it was time to conquer the next level of Government and I went to work for the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. 

Finally after over 25 years in Local, State and Federal Government, I needed a break and took a short stint running my own business, which included taking on some consultancy work for Flinders University working for the New Venture Institute based out of the eNVIsion Limestone Coast premises at the Mount Gambier High School. Before long they had offered me an amazing opportunity which I couldn’t say no to!  I’m now loving working in the education sector (secondary, tertiary and professional) and am finding so many opportunities to add value in this region which really excites me so I think I’ll be staying put for awhile! I also love being based in the heart of Mount Gambier High School where I get to see the amazing students and teachers that we have here.

3/ What is your biggest challenge you have faced professionally or personally?
Working in the public sector I’ve often found myself disagreeing with decisions that politicians made for our region. I often felt that there hadn’t been enough effort made to listen to the views of those in regions.  I always managed to find a way to stand up for my values, but it created some tense situations, and often wasn’t successful in changing anything!  It was tough and often left me feeling like a failure, letting my team down, my region down and myself down.  

If I’m honest my decision to leave my career in government, was a ‘vote with your feet’ moment for me. I wanted a career where I could be creative, help people realise their potential and bring positive change, and there are limitations to your ability to do that when you work for government. That said, there are many inspiring and amazing people who still work for government in this region, and I’m grateful to all of them for their patience and productivity.   

Aside from those challenges, I’ve spent my career being encouraged to leave this region, to move to capital cities to further my career and climb the ladder which I always found frustrating! I’ve been lucky enough to prove that there are rewarding careers for women right here in this region and I’m still enjoying mine…

4/ What is your favourite place to visit in the Limestone Coast & Western Victoria area?
Hmmm, I’m going to have to say the pine forests that surround Mount Gambier.  When we moved to Mount Gambier my parents built a house in Wandilo and I loved having the pine forests close by.  As a teenager my friends and I spent a lot of time in them, and when my girls were little, my husband and I loved taking them out to go exploring as well. Now my girls are teenagers they aren’t as interested in this (and I really hope they aren’t getting up to mischief in the forests like I used to) and so Jason and I now head to the pine forests on our own, in fact we went blackberry picking on the weekend, I have the purple stained fingers to prove it!

5/ What is a recommendation for our members to  take away ?
I’ve learnt that if I’m not being true to myself and what matters to me then I’m not the best mother, wife, friend,  manager, co-worker that I can be. My role with Flinders University is focused on innovation and entrepreneurial education; and one of the foundations of this is ensuring that we understand our values, strengths and our passions. Once we know this we can more easily find a way to work to them, because this is how the world gets the best from us.

I’ve been lucky enough to have access to lots of educational opportunities and really am a life-long learner.  One of the best things that I ever did was the Strengths Finder 2.0 which helped me understand what my natural talents actually were and provided advice about how to build more of these into my work life.  I’d highly recommend it to anyone feeling a bit stuck in their personal or professional lives.

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